A plethora of important, chemically diverse natural products are derived from plants1. In principle, plant cell culture offers an attractive option for producing many of these compounds2, 3. However, it is often not commercially viable because of difficulties associated with culturing dedifferentiated plant cells (DDCs) on an industrial scale3. To bypass the dedifferentiation step, we isolated and cultured innately undifferentiated cambial meristematic cells (CMCs). Using a combination of deep sequencing technologies, we identified marker genes and transcriptional programs consistent with a stem cell identity. This notion was further supported by the morphology of CMCs, their hypersensitivity to γ-irradiation and radiomimetic drugs and their ability to differentiate at high frequency. Suspension culture of CMCs derived from Taxus cuspidata, the source of the key anticancer drug, paclitaxel (Taxol)2, 3, circumvented obstacles routinely associated with the commercial growth of DDCs. These cells may provide a cost-effective and environmentally friendly platform for sustainable production of a variety of important plant natural products.